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American Bar finds Ave Maria law school in compliance


Thursday, July 3, 2008

The country's law school governing body has resolved a complaint against the Michigan-based Ave Maria School of Law in the school's favor, Ave Maria's acting dean said.

In an e-mail this week to the law school community, Ave Maria Acting Dean Eugene Milhizer wrote that the American Bar Association (ABA) has ended its investigation into the school's ability to attract and maintain competent faculty and found the school in compliance with the organization's standards.

"The important thing to me is that it demonstrates we've been working closely and collaboratively with the ABA and it allows us to look to the future," Milhizer said in a telephone interview.

Milhizer said the investigation, which was initiated after members of the school's faculty filed a complaint against the school two years ago, did not affect Ave Maria's full accreditation with the ABA and did not place any requirements or restrictions on the school. He declined further comment on the ABA decision, citing the confidentiality of the organization's proceedings.

An ABA official declined comment on Milhizer's e-mail.

"I am not able to either confirm or deny the statement issued by Acting Dean Milhizer, due to confidentiality rules applicable to ABA approval of law schools," ABA Spokeswoman Nancy Slonim said in an e-mail.

The ABA complaint was one of three significant matters facing Ave Maria, which plans to move to North Naples and become Collier County's first law school in 2009. The ABA must approve any major changes to a law school, and Ave Maria officials have said they will not move to Florida unless the ABA signs off on the deal. Ave Maria submitted its application to the ABA for the move last month.

Ave Maria is also embroiled in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by three law professors, who allege they were removed from the school for reporting it to a variety of law enforcement and legal agencies, including the ABA.

Steve Safranek, one of the professors who filed suit and who filed the complaint with the ABA, said he read Milhizer's e-mail but declined comment because of his litigation against Ave Maria.

Reaction to the ABA's decision varied among law school alumni.

Laura Hoffman, a 2007 graduate, said she wanted more information from Ave Maria administration, given what she said was an inadequate response from the school to other matters involving the ABA.

"I am not sure there is a full understanding of what this means for Ave Maria unless and until greater clarification is provided," Hoffman said in an e-mail.

"It is difficult for me to embrace the administration's response from these previous instances of providing us only a limited perspective of what was said by the ABA's communications."

But Robb Klucik, a 2003 graduate who's an attorney at Naples law firm Roetzel & Andress, said that the ABA's decision was "obviously great news" for the law school.

"It's an indication that the school has been doing what it should be doing and that most of the complaints or all of the complaints are not borne out by a neutral third party," Klucik said.

The law school has no institutional affiliation with Ave Maria University, currently in eastern Collier County, but Domino's Pizza magnate Tom Monaghan founded both schools and he sits on their boards.